Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Classics Challenge: July and lasting impressions

For the July round of her Classics Challenge, Katherine at November's Autumn asks us to recall the lasting impressions that classic works have left on us, and to look that what we have read this year: "What is a moment, quote, or character that you feel will stay with you? Years from now, when some of the details have faded, that lasting impression the book has left you with... what is it? --or why did it fail to leave an impression?"

The character who has stayed with me most vividly is from the very first book that I posted about for this challenge, back in January: Philip Morville from Charlotte M. Yonge's The Heir of Redclyffe. I found him one of the most insufferable characters that I have ever come across in all my years of reading. He quite easily could have been a hero: a gentleman, handsome, gifted, intelligent and well-educated, with strong principles. He has many virtues, but they are outweighed by his pride and sense of superiority, which lead him to lecture and patronize even his elders. Yet Philip is also a disappointed man, destined for university and a gentleman's life, but left at his father's death without resources. Much against his inclination he has had to make his career in the army instead. This disappointment makes him resent his cousin Guy Morville, the heir of the title, who holds wealth and a title that Philip sometimes covets. Occasionally he seems to recognize in himself a fault or a weakness, and his usual reaction is to point the finger at someone else, often Guy, his most frequent target.

Philip had been used to feel men's wills and characters bend and give way beneath his superior force of mind. They might, like Charles, chafe and rage, but his calmness always gave him the ascendant almost without exertion, and few people had ever come into contact with him without a certain submission of will or opinion. With Guy alone it was not so; he had been sensible of it once or twice before; he had no mastery, and could no more bend that spirit than a bar of steel. This he could not bear, for it obliged him to be continually making efforts to preserve his own sense of superiority.

I had to make my own continual effort to remember that Philip was a fictional character, so immensely did he irk me. I enjoyed the ways that other characters in the book, who found him just as irritating, would bait and challenge him. I also enjoyed watching his story play out. Based on his eventual fate, I doubt that he was Charlotte Yonge's favorite character either.


  1. I hadn't heard of The Heir of Redclyffe. Phillips sounds terrible. I could understand if he was like that at the beginning of the novel and then develops a strong and good character by the end realizing his own faults etc. but to stay stubbornly 'superior' throughout, that sounds like a very irksome character.

    Thanks for participating, Lisa!

  2. *Shudder* Philip sounds horrid. I don't know if I would have been able to stick with a book with such an obnoxious character!

  3. Katherine, I was trying to avoid spoilers - Philip does change in the end, but at a great cost not just to himself but to the other characters.

    Anbolyn, he is just awful for much of the book, but that does set off the goodness of the others! (the ones that he feels himself so much superior to, of course.)


Thank you for taking the time to read, and to comment. I always enjoy hearing different points of view about the books I am reading, even if we disagree!